5th Sep 2018

     Our firm is pleased to report of a recent Appellate Division ruling that we obtained on behalf of a Board of Education client, affirming its managerial prerogative to set the school calendar for teachers as well as students.  On August 28, 2018, the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division, in the case of West Morris Regional High School Board of Education v. West Morris Regional Education Association, held that the setting of the school calendar, in particular the setting of the first and last day of the school calendar for teachers, is a non-negotiable managerial prerogative.

    The case arose out of a scope of negotiation petition filed on June 20, 2016 by the West Morris Regional High School Board of Education (“Board”) with the Public Employment Relations Commission (“PERC”).  During negotiations for a successor collective negotiation agreement with the West Morris Education Association (“Association”), the Board contended the phrase “shall be employed from September 1 through June 30” must be removed from the agreement because “it unlawfully interferes with the Board’s managerial prerogative to establish the school calendar.”

     The Board argued it could exercise its managerial prerogative to change the start date of the school year without affecting employees’ salaries and that the school calendar was an educational policy goal that did not require mandatory negotiation.  The Association argued that school calendar changes could negatively impact Association members if the setting of the school calendar was deemed non-negotiable.  According to the Association, starting school in the summer months could cause health concerns because of the lack of air conditioning in some schools.  Relying on N.J.S.A. 18A:36-2, which provides that “the board of education shall determine annually the dates, between which the schools of the district shall be open . . .”, PERC determined the setting of the first and last day of the school calendar to be a well-settled, non-negotiable managerial prerogative.

     On appeal, the Association argued that N.J.S.A. 18A:36-2 only applied to the setting of the student calendar and that the Board must negotiate with the Association about the portion of the calendar for teachers on days when students are not present, including the start date for teachers at the beginning of the school year.  The Association further argued that N.J.S.A. 18A:36-2 should be read together with the New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act to limit its applicability to the student calendar only.  The Association further asserted that its position was supported by the decision of Piscataway Twp. Educ. Ass’n v. Piscataway Twp. Bd. of Educ., 307 N.J. Super. 263, 265 (App. Div. 1998), which held that a mid-year calendar change, made to account for unexpected snow days, could be deemed negotiable.

      The Appellate Division ruled that Piscataway was clearly distinguishable as pertaining solely to mid-year calendar changes, which were deemed negotiable only if they did not significantly encroach upon the well-established managerial prerogative to set the school calendar.   The Appellate Division further ruled that the Association’s argument distinguishing between the student and the teacher calendars was unpersuasive because a board of education’s acknowledged managerial prerogative to set the student calendar would be confined by the boundaries set for the teachers’ calendar.  Accordingly, the Appellate Division affirmed PERC’s determination.

If you have any questions regarding this decision, please contact our offices.   

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